24/08/2017 - As one of the most dynamic regions in the world with an increasingly diversified economy, an expanding middle class, and a young and literate population, Southeast Asia is well positioned to embrace the ongoing global digital transformation. Digitalisation can spur the much needed innovation and productivity growth across many activities, transform public services, and improve well-being for all citizens. For Southeast Asia, it can help in moving toward growth driven less by the size of exports and more by productivity increases, enabling countries in the region to “move up the value-chain”.
But challenges remain in ensuring that all individuals, businesses and governments have reliable and affordable access to digital networks and services. Wide gaps persist, both within and between ASEAN member countries, with the cost of access to digital networks remaining too high in some countries. There is also a digital divide between small and large firms in terms of internet use, as well as between urban and rural areas. In addition, the potential benefits of the digital transformation go hand-in-hand with challenges to jobs and skills, to privacy and security, and to public institutions.
“Digitalisation is driving an unprecedented transformation of our economies and societies. To ensure that these transformations benefit all of Southeast Asia’s citizens equally, policy makers need to close the gap between Technology 4.0 and Policy 1.0,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría opening the OECD Southeast Asia Regional Forum in Bangkok this week.
The OECD, through its Southeast Asia Regional Programme (SEARP), is supporting Southeast Asian countries’ policy reform priorities as well as regional integration efforts. SEARP builds on a broad range of OECD work relevant for addressing the digitalisation challenge by leveraging its Regional Policy Networks on good regulatory practice, investment, education and skills, SMEs, tax policies, sustainable infrastructure, and its Initiatives on trade, innovation and gender. The Regional Programme also helps leverage a new OECD project on "Going Digital: Making the Transformation Work for Growth and Well-being”. This project will provide concrete advice to policymakers on issues ranging from expanding broadband in rural and remote areas, to understanding how digitalisation is changing international trade, to assessing how skill needs will change as the digital transformation picks up pace – all important challenges for policymakers in Southeast Asia.
The Southeast Asia Regional Programme is holding its annual Forum on 24th August in Bangkok. Focusing this year on “Opportunities and Policy Challenges of Digital Transformation in Southeast Asia”, the Regional Forum will discuss policy approaches to enable the region to harness the benefits of digitalisation and respond to its challenges. They will aim to identify policy options that can make digitalisation work for Southeast Asian economies and societies alike. The conclusions should provide direction for relevant future work of the Programme. Other events will also be organized back-to-back with the Forum. These events include a Business Network Meeting on the 23rd August, which should give businesses in ASEAN an opportunity to engage with policymakers on critical business-related topics, as well as the Steering Group meeting of the SEARP on the 25th August.
Finally, Secretary-General Gurría will be meeting with high-level Thai government officials to re-iterate the OECD’s strong commitment in cooperating with Thailand, including through the OECD-Thailand Country Programme.
Working with over 100 countries, the OECD is a global policy forum that promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.